Spreading love for Ukraine
Event: Liubov – Ukrainian Art Songs of the heart and soul
Date: May 13, 2023
Location: St. Andrews River Heights United Church, 255 Oak Street, Winnipeg
Tickets: FREE, performers suggest that attendees consider a donation to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
Canada is home to the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora population outside of Russia, and, with over 180,000 residents who identify as Ukrainian, Manitoba is the largest Ukrainian centre in Canada.
Ukrainian heritage is woven into every aspect of Winnipeg’s culture. Restaurants and delis serving pierogi, holubtsi, potato pancakes and borscht, bakeries selling paska, Ukrainian churches, the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Education Centre, the Ukrainian Pavilion at Folklorama, and even doctor’s offices offering services primarily in Ukrainian, Ukrainian culture is everywhere you look. And this weekend, four Desautels alumni and students will be bringing the art songs of Ukraine to Winnipeg.
Kasia Swintak (soprano), Katherine Mayba (soprano), Héctor Pinzón (piano), and Megan Dufrat (piano) will perform Liubov (“love” in Ukrainian), a collection of Ukrainian art songs, adding to the already rich arts and culture of Ukraine in Winnipeg. The free concert will take place at St. Andrew’s River Heights United Church, 255 Oak St., on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 2:00pm.
Katherine and Kasia’s interest in this concert is rooted in their shared Ukrainian heritage. Both attended the Ukrainian Art Song Project Summer Institute (UASPSI) in Toronto, where they learned Ukrainian repertoire and further explored their heritage.
“I had the opportunity to work alongside Pavlo Hunka and emerging artists to uncover a trove of exceptional music,” says Katherine of the experience.
“As a classical musician of Ukrainian heritage, the experience was invaluable and instilled a desire to showcase these underrepresented works on the concert stage,” she says.
Guardians and champions of Ukrainian heritage
Katherine came away from the 2019 summer institute determined to bring underrepresented Ukrainian works to Winnipeg. However, the beginning of the pandemic soon thwarted her plans. Undeterred, Katherine and Kasia both attended the summer institute in 2022, and were steadfast in their desire to spread Ukrainian Art Song across Canada.
Ultimately, the Desautels Faculty of Music also benefitted from the summer institute, as Katherine brought the songs back with her and taught fellow students in the Song Interpretation course the basic elements of Ukrainian language and diction.
“[I was able to] provide students with historical information to better understand the evolution of Ukrainian music and poetry,” she says of her work in the class.
This experience in the classroom helped the concert take shape.
“Through this process, I learned what tools singers need to facilitate learning Ukrainian art songs, and ways to aid ease and accessibility of the language. Learning from others was a crucial way to learn myself and prepare for this concert. I am very grateful for this valuable and insightful experience,” says Katherine.
Creating a concert
“The program will showcase varied musical styles, poetry and composers, as well as solo pieces and duets,” she says.
The concert, which is funded in part by The Shevchenko Foundation and the University of Manitoba, will feature traditional works by romantic art song composer Mykola Lysenko, viewed as the “father” of Ukrainian art songs; late-romantic composers Yakiv Stepovy, Stanyslav Liudkevych, Ostap Nyzhankivsky; mid-century composers Vasyl Barvinsky, Dmitri Klebanov; 21st century female composer Stefania Turkewich and contemporary art song composers Myroslav Volynsky and Myroslav Skoryk.
“The concert also highlights famous poems by Taras Shevchenko, Lesia Ukrainka and other acclaimed Ukrainian poets, that capture the heart and soul of Ukraine and its people,” says Katherine.
Katherine feels particularly connected to the Volynsky song set that will be performed at the concert, and is excited to share this composer’s works with the audience.
“In the 2019 SI, we worked almost exclusively on Volynsky repertoire and had the opportunity to meet him,” says Katherine.
“I really enjoy the complexity of his music and find it very rewarding to learn, deconstruct and perform. The harmonic language is lush and orchestral. I love the drama infused in his music, which can feel operatic. As well, his attention to poetry and the intricacies in word-painting are particularly exquisite. I look forward to performing more of his music in the future.”
The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia makes this concert especially important.
“I feel compelled to promote and perform Ukrainian art songs as a way to ensure Ukrainian music, language and culture is not erased,” says Katherine of the concert.
“I believe this music should be championed and celebrated on the world stage. My hope is to make this music accessible so that audiences gain an appreciation and understanding of the richness and diversity of Ukrainian art songs.”
In addition to the Liubov concert, Katherine will also be featured as the guest soloist for the O. Koshetz Ukrainian Choir’s May 28, 2023 performance Rejoice in Easter Celebrate in Spring, also at the St. Andrews River Heights Church, 255 Oak St., at 7:00pm. Tickets for that performance can be found on Eventzilla.
Don’t miss these fantastic opportunities to learn more about Ukrainian culture, art, and heritage!